After playing in front of thousands, having a first date watched by millions didn’t seem too strange to Celtic’s former Portugal star, as Dan Brennan reports 

Jorge Cadete is remembered at Celtic as one of the Three Amigos, the forward line that bedazzled and delighted the Parkhead public during 1996-97. He and his two compadres – Paolo Di Canio and Pierre van Hooijdonk – also had manager Tommy Burns and chairman Fergus McCann reaching for the valium. It was McCann who first coined the epithet – more a sour reference to their fanciful wage demands and antics off the pitch than their buccaneering exploits on it.

Celtic fans had good reason to be excited at the sign­ing of Cadete. Two seasons earlier, as captain of Bobby Robson’s Sporting Lisbon – then a hugely talented team containing among others Paulo Sousa and a young Luis Figo – he had scored the goals that had dumped the Glaswegians out of the UEFA Cup. A year before that he’d scored a couple for Portugal in a 5-0 thrashing of Scotland. At £400,000 he was a snip.

The story has it that the roar that greeted his debut goal was so loud the BBC had to stop recording. His signing was even immortalised on film (in The Aficionados – a Fever Pitch meets Gregory’s Girl that went straight to video). Cadete scored 25 more but the goals could not quite disguise a season bereft of trophies in which Celtic failed to win any of four Old Firm encounters.

Cadete went AWOL halfway through his second season and, citing mental health problems, refused to return from Portugal. However his contribution is recorded in Celtic’s annals, he did, unwittingly, leave Scottish football a lasting gift for which every true fan should thank him. In 1999, a post-mortem into the delay of his registration as a Celtic player three years earlier led to the dismissal of the much reviled SFA chief, Jim Farry. Celtic had claimed this cost them the chance to play him against Rangers, and hence potentially affected the outcome of the title race.

Cadete went on to enjoy a reasonably suc­cessful and controversy-free season with Celta Vigo, before heading home for Ben­fica where he barely played a game, un­able to dislodge an ageing Dean Saun- ders. In March 2000, having failed to get a single start in over a year, he went on loan to Brad­ford City. Cadete promised to eng­ineer a rescue from the brink of relegation from the Premiership – all for a bargain £17,000 a week.

The signing smacked of blind desperation and man­ager Paul Jewell confessed he’d “not actually seen Cad­ete play, but knew his reputation”. Bradford did stay up, but Cadete could claim little of the credit. In three months at Valley Parade he made two starts and five substitute appearances, scoring a total of zero goals.

Unable to find him a new club in Portugal, Cadete’s agents returned to Britain in search of a final payday. But there were no takers. Derby County were almost tempted; there was even talk of a return to the SPL with St Mirren, until wages were discussed.

At this point, he should probably have retired to the Algarve to work on his golf handicap. However, a graceful retreat from the limelight was never really Cadete’s style. Last autumn, aged 34, he launched another come­back – on Portugal’s version of Celebrity Big Brother. But as a bid to win public appeal, it was ill-judged and he was among the first to be voted off. This may well have some­thing to do with the fact that he often appeared wearing the green and white of Sporting Lisbon, promp­ting a deluge of phone calls from Benfica fans.

Though it wasn’t all bad. To the initial delight and eventual indifference of the Portuguese media, he be­gan a relationship with Nicole, former singer with Ten­tações, who were briefly hailed as Portugal’s answer to the Spice Girls. Nicole was initially unimpressed, but so smitten was Jorge with his new love that he asked the producers to organise an intimate Thai dinner (for two plus five million viewers), which seemed to do the trick.

The lovebirds’ first kiss was caught on camera, with Cadete standing on a crane, holding a huge white ted­dy with the letters “J” and “C” sewn on to the paws. A wedding has been announced for later this year. Cad­ete, meanwhile, has signed up with music agency An­gra, though where exactly he plans to take his showbiz career is not quite clear, as he can’t sing.

Cadete still occasionally takes time out from the showbiz circuit to comment on the state of Portuguese football, and was openly critical of the national team’s World Cup performance last year. By contrast, with the help of his new mentors, he can at least look forward to the possibility that he may well soon be big in Japan.

From WSC 196 June 2003. What was happening this month

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